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Gunman kills two at San Francisco jewelry market

By Malathi Nayak

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A man armed with a gun and a knife killed two women at a San Francisco jewelry market on Friday and shot at police before fleeing, prompting lockdowns at major technology companies nearby, authorities said.

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr said the man threw down his gun and surrendered at a nearby Mexican restaurant after running out of ammunition, and that he was bleeding as he left the multistory Gift Center and Jewelry Mart.

Police had initially said that the incident began as an armed robbery, but later backed off that assertion.

"We do not know at this time what the motive for this horrendous crime was," Suhr said, adding that police did not know if the victims had been shot or stabbed.

Ken Lam, who owns a jewelry shop in the market, told Reuters that while evacuating the building on police orders he glimpsed a woman lying on her back on the floor of the store where police said the incident took place.

Another jewelry store owner from the building, Ester Ishag, said she knew the two deceased women, who both worked at the store where they were killed.

"It is very sad. They were very nice ladies. We were all shocked. It's never happened before," she said, adding that her brother, cousin and nephew all saw the suspect reloading a gun. She described the suspect as a heavy-set young man.

The gunfire in the city's South of Market neighborhood prompted online ticketing service Eventbrite and social media site Pinterest, among other local tech firms, to place their buildings on lockdown.

The area, once a light industrial district, has become a stronghold of the booming social media industry.

Suhr said the gunman opened fire at the first officers who responded. A third person, a man, was wounded by gunfire and hospitalized in stable condition, Suhr said.

After incorrect initial reports that the shooting had taken place at an REI store near the jewelry market, the recreational equipment company said on Twitter: "We want to ensure you that customers & employees inside our San Francisco store are safe. Our thoughts are with the shooting victims."

(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Doina Chiacu and Mohammad Zargham)

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